THE TOUR IN LONDON PART TWO?

The rumours flying around following the launch of the 2009 Tour de France suggest that the race may be coming back to London sooner than anyone anticipated.

The smart money is on a return visit in 2011 and the rumour hints that the capital could stage a time trial on the 2012 Olympic Games time trial course.

We heard this a few months ago and it makes sense. After all, London needs to host an elite level time trial to test the Olympic Games course before 2012. Transport for London has made no secret of its desire to bring the Tour back as soon as feasible, and the Tour knows they can?t simply repeat the London prologue experience and that they need to do something different.

It seems 2010 is too soon and 2012 is ruled out because the impact of bringing the Tour back to London would be totally lost with the Olympic Games only a month away, so that leaves 2011.

If I had to make a prediction now, I would say that the Tour will come to London for the second weekend, not the opening one.

There could be a road stage from the south coast into the centre of London on the Saturday, followed by a time trial on the Sunday on the Olympic Games course, before a rest day and transfer back to France on the Monday.

VOTE HOY FOR SPORTS PERSONALITY

This week?s Cycling Weekly is urging cycling fans to vote for Chris Hoy when the BBC launches its Sports Personality of the Year competition.

Not only that, but we?re asking readers of Cycling Weekly to persuade two friends to vote for Hoy too, in an attempt to make him the first cyclist to win the prestigious prize since Tom Simpson in 1965.

It?s a tricky situation for cycling fans, because it is very likely that when the BBC announces its shortlist of finalists, there will be more than one cyclist on it.

Nicole Cooke, Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish and Victoria Pendleton could all feasibly be nominated for the award, which will be presented in Liverpool on December 14 after all the public votes have been counted.

The problem is, having more than one cyclist on the list means the vote could be split, allowing motor racing driver Lewis Hamilton, tennis player Andy Murray or swimmer Rebecca Adlington to win.

So, the harsh reality is that cycling fans who want to see a cyclist win the prize need to unite behind one candidate.

And of the possible candidates, you can?t argue with Chris Hoy?s claim. He is, without doubt, British sport?s greatest achiever of 2008. And if you factor in his achievements over the past decade, his case strengthens. This season alone he has two world titles and three Olympic golds. He’s Britain?s first men?s world champion track sprinter since Reg Harris, and the first Briton to win three golds at a single Olympics for a century.

His record is incredible and so surely all cycling fans in Britain would love to see him honoured with one of the highest-profile sports awards in the country.

It is harsh that cycling fans are in a position where they may have to make a choice and it is certainly no reflection on Cooke, Wiggins, Cavendish, Pendleton and the rest, but if a cyclist is to win, we have no choice but to pick one and not divide support between a number of candidates.

Last year boxer Joe Calzaghe won the award with 177,000 votes, 29 per cent of the total.

So, if every reader of Cycling Weekly persuades two friends to support Hoy and vote for him when the process starts next month, he could win it.

Keep an eye on the magazine and this website over the coming weeks for details of how you can Vote Hoy for the BBC?s Sports Personality of the Year.

WHY NO MORE RETESTS?

How strange that the Giro d’Italia’s organiser Angelo Zomegnan feels there is no need to re-test samples taken at his race for the banned drug CERA.

He told the Italian newspaper, Gazzetta dello Sport that the anti-doping laboratory in Rome did not find a single CERA case and there was no indication that there could have been CERA doping.

Hmm. That’s odd. The substance was detected in Riccardo Ricco’s urine at the Tour de France and, according to the UCI, Ricco was specifically targeted because of anomalies that showed up in earlier tests, including those taken at the Giro.

And Emanuele Sella, a rider who won successive stages and the king of the mountains title while making the rest of the peloton look rather pedestrian in Italy’s major tour, tested positive for CERA in late July, again after being specifically tested on the basis of unusual results.

Is Zomegnan trying to tell us that Sella resorted to CERA only after the Giro? Is Zomegnan expecting us to believe that Sella tore the Giro field to pieces clean, and only took CERA to prepare for the Trofeo Matteotti?

It strikes me that it would be a very, very good idea to retest any available blood samples taken at the Giro d’Italia rather than just glibly dismiss the idea that anyone in his race may have been using CERA.

What’s the matter? Is Zomegnan frightened about what such tests may uncover?

BASSO?S BACK

Ivan Basso. Traquillo. And also smug.

Smug, shiny-faced cheat Ivan Basso is back in action at the Japan Cup at the weekend, just as UCI president Pat McQuaid is contemplating increasing suspension for some doping offences to four years.

Basso?s return now, while the wounds of Operacion Puerto are still weeping and sore, demonstrates why two years is too short a penalty.

It is not actually the UCI’s fault that some riders involved in Operacion Puerto ? notably the Spanish ? have yet to even meet justice while those of other nationalities are preparing to return to action.

The ProTour teams made an agreement not to sign any rider returning from a suspension for a further two years, effectively banishing a doper to the wilderness for four years.

Liquigas chose to ignore that particular agreement by signing Basso, a situation that is just as disgraceful as Johan Bruyneel’s decision to hire the Italian for Discovery Channel when he was attempting to evade a suspension after being sacked – sorry, released from his contract – by CSC.

Anyway, the debate about the merit of life-time bans splits opinion with people on one side arguing that permanent bans are not a deterrent.

However, a four-year ban seems fair. It isn?t that a four-year ban will deter a potential cheat on the basis that two years seems like it?ll fly by and four years sounds like an age. But it is a necessary measure to protect the sport from further negative publicity. Having Basso and others back after such a short period of time simply magnifies the problem.

For much of his time on the sidelines, Basso has been training just as hard as when he was racing so he can come back in competitive shape.

There should be some kind of life penalty, and WADA [the World Anti-Doping Agency] has it within its power to enforce all IOC-accredited national sports federations to impose a lifetime ban from the Olympic Games and World Championships.

So, a doper would, after serving a four-year ban, be free to return to earn a living from their sport, but they would be barred from representing their country at Olympic and World Championship level, serving a reminder that there is a permanent cost for breaking the rules in such a blatant fashion.

Perhaps then we would see an end to riders mouthing banal apologies or referring to their decision to inject a substance or transfuse a bag of blood as a mere ‘mistake’.

AFLD HAS RIDERS RUNNING SCARED?

Pierre Bordry, head of the French anti-doping agency [AFLD], has mentioned once or twice that his organisation has developed – or is on the cusp of developing – a test to detect autologous blood transfusions.

That is the practice of an athlete re-introducing their own red cell rich blood to give a performance-enhancing boost.

As far as we know, the test does not yet stand up to scrutiny and has not yet been introduced, but having analysed blood samples from the Tour, Bordry has indicated that he suspects foul play and has contacted certain riders to let them know they’re being monitored.

Bordry added that he was surprised how quickly some riders’ performances tailed off once they had been tipped off, a comment that Pat McQuaid dismissed as unhelpful.

But if the AFLD is the first to develop a reliable and enforceable test for autologous transfusions it will be a huge breakthrough.

And it will be interesting to see if any high-profile riders suddenly decide that they’d rather not take part in races in France next year.

HALFORDS CONTINUES

Halfords has come in for a bit of criticism when it became clear that the women’s team would not be continuing and that Nicole Cooke would be moving on.

The assumption was that Halfords signed up to sponsor Cooke and the women?s team for Olympic year and, with a warm glow of reflected glory following her triumph in Beijing, they’ve maximised their publicity and are now opting out.

But that’s not really a true reflection of the situation.

As we understand it, Halfords is continuing its partnership with British Cycling and will be sponsoring an expanded men’s team, which will compete on the domestic front in Britain. Rob Hayles will be the leader and, we gather, Ed Clancy will also be joining.

Halfords came on board at a time when Dave Brailsford and co were planning a strategy to give Cooke the very best chance of winning in Beijing. That meant scaling back on the international programme of World Cups and stage races, taking on a lighter load and working closely with British Cycling all year to ensure she was at her peak in China.

For that goal, the Halfords team was perfect. It brought together the best British women, as well as developing some very promising youngsters.

But it is worth bearing in mind the team did not compete as Halfords in a single race outside this country. Every time they raced abroad they did so as Great Britain.

Halfords is a retailer with a UK market and exposing the brand in Europe was pretty low on the company’s list of priorities.

With her Olympic gold medal secured, Cooke now wants to get back to the familiar diet of World Cup races and events such as the Grande Boucle and Giro d’Italia and so she needs a team that will give her that programme. She has agreed to join up with Stefan Wyman’s Vision1 Racing team, an evolution of the Swift Racing team. Remember Cooke rode the Grande Boucle for Swift Racing during the run-up to the Olympics.

The women who were part of that team were all tied to the federation in some way or other and so nothing will change for them. In fact, there may be opportunities for them with Vision1.

But it is to Halfords and British Cycling’s credit that they have found a way to prolong the relationship and bolster a domestic scene that is enjoy a period of growth at the moment.

CONQUERING WESSEX

This time last year, I decided to enter the 2008 Paris-Roubaix cyclo-sportive, and I spent the winter and spring fretting about how little training I had done and whether I?d survive it.

This year I have settled on the marathon three-day Tour of Wessex sportive as one of my goals for 2009.

So it was a real boost to the confidence when the Wessex organiser Nick Bourne emailed me a motivational poster to print out and pin on my office wall as a reminder to haul myself out of the door and get some miles in.

It?s just so nice to know that the organiser is taking such a keen interest in my preparation.

Or perhaps he?s just reminding me that now I have committed to ride, there?s absolutely no wriggling out of it.

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PREVIOUS WEDNESDAY COMMENTS
October 15 ? How to pick a winner
October 8 ? UCI bends the rules for Lance
October 1 ? Armstrong again?
September 24 ? Why Contador must leave Astana for his own self-respect
September 17 ? Let?s leave the dirty generation in the past
September 10 ? The Armstrong Edition
September 10 ? The Armstrong-free Edition
Bonus comment ? Why Sevilla, Botero and Hamilton must not start Tour of Britain
September 3 ? Want to be national TT champ and ride the Tour of Britain? Tough, you can?t
August 27 ? Defending Great Britain
August 20 – Gold, gold, glorious gold
August 13 ? Gold rush starts
August 6 ? Team LPR in the Tour of Britain
July 30 ? Assessing the Tour
The Tuesday Comment – January to July 2008